The Microphenotron: Developing an automated microphenotyping platform to unlock the potential of chemical biology in plants

Funding: BBSRC, £108k of £167k total, 2014–2016

Investigators: Professor B Forde (PI), Professor C J Taylor

At Lancaster University a novel technology has been developed that for the first time allows Arabidopsis seedlings to be grown under conditions suitable for studying the effects of small molecules on the development of both roots and shoots. However, it is still a laborious process to screen more than a few hundred molecules using the current version of this technology, and there are some intrinsic problems that preclude reliable quantitative analysis of root architecture. In this project, a team of biologists, engineers and computer scientists will address these problems to develop the ‘Microphenotron’, a robotic version of the phenotyping system that will automate the process of image capture and analysis. The development of the Microphenotron will greatly expand the accessibility and utility of chemical biology approaches to the wider plant biology community, leading to a greater understanding of plant gene function. It will also provide a new tool for the development of synthetic and natural molecules for improved agricultural sustainability, with resulting benefits for farmers, the environment and society.

Photo of robotic manipulator